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‘Rome wasn’t built in a day:’ The ongoing fight for LGBTQ rights

Published: March 28, 2013, 12:49 am ET
Contributor

On Tuesday morning, March 26, 2013, as we all geared up to pick sides and have heated debates, a landmark case regarding LGBTQ rights was to be heard before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Slowly, Facebook was turning red… No, we weren’t all blushing, but glowing with pride. Red and pink equal signs emerged one by one as profile pictures and shared images of the day.

While some just wanted to show support for marriage equality, those more invested in the issue took it as an opportunity to remind people that there is far more work to be done. Regardless, I was proud to see how many people believed in the fight for equality for everyone in the United States, regardless of sexual orientation.

First, I just want to say how happy I was to see my friends posting and liking these images, posts, quotes and videos today. As someone who firmly believes in LGBTQ rights, and is personally invested, it honestly made me tear up a little bit.

It made me think of when I was in middle school, questioning my sexuality and questioning where everyone else stood on the issue.

Mostly, I feared what other people thought of it. On March 26, 2013, I thought: I hope some young kid is out there and can see all of this support, and sees how much love surrounds them, regardless of who they love or are attracted to.

However, there were two things I noticed that I was unfortunately ashamed of, the first being the animosity and criticism within the community of support about marriage rights.

I have to agree that marriage rights are a tricky thing to tackle in the LGBTQ community, considering the history of marriage has such patriarchal, heteronormative and even misogynistic connotations.

I would agree that if we were to choose a single issue to focus on, never to return to LGBTQ rights again, that marriage should not be it. However, I don’t know if I’ve met a member of the LGBTQ or ally community that believes that.

It seems obvious to me that marriage is only a small step in a series of steps working for a more egalitarian society that has several humanitarian issues at hand, both inside and outside the LGBTQ issues. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we can’t tackle all the issues at once. Perhaps we should look at marriage equality in a different way.

Maybe people see it as the most accessible window to tackling a whole slew of problems in the future. Maybe some people just really want to get married. Regardless, let’s stop hating on people who fight for marriage equality.

Just because people spend time and money on this does not mean the other issues pertinent to our lives are not important or acknowledged. It seems silly to me to even label the focus on marriage equality as the main reason for not acknowledging other issues. It’s a relatable, accessible issue that will be a gateway to the others that arise.

Not to compare apples to oranges (because the Civil Rights Movement is not the same as the LGBTQ rights movement), but it’s not like the guys at Woolworth’s lunch counter thought that eating lunch where they wanted was the most important issue of their time. It was a way to get people’s attention on the larger conversation. Sound familiar?

The second thing that really bothered me has to do with the reinforcement of what I unfortunately already knew: The vast majority of outward supporters were either women or gay men.

Of course, I don’t want to act like none of my straight male friends showed their support or haven’t in the past, nor do I wish to suggest that the only way people could show their support was by changing their profile picture or “liking” someone’s status, favoriting a tweet, etc.

But at the same time, changing the profile picture or liking a status is such a simple act. What’s holding them back?

One reason could be the stigmas associated with supporting LGBTQ rights. “If you support it, then you’re gay.” And the straight men couldn’t have that because then they’d never get laid, right? Or, more accurately, their friends might disown them or make fun of them for outwardly caring about their LGBTQ friends?

Another reason could be this: Straight men have little reason to care because they barely know what it feels like to be in the minority if at all, therefore have no sense of duty to help or simply show solidarity to those who are affected by the various social strata that put them in the “unmarked,” privileged category. Most of the straight males I’m referring to have little interaction with me in my daily life, and I don’t care what they think about my opinions of LGBTQ equality.

However, mostly I was shocked by my closest friends, my heterosexual male friends, who didn’t as much as strike up a conversation with me about it, not to mention changing their profile pictures and or otherwise directly showing support or solidarity.

But what gives? Do you all not understand how important it is for you to publicly support your LGBTQ and ally friends in this endeavor? Do you not think your opinion matters? Or do you just not care?

Maybe you think a Facebook picture or post doesn’t matter. But I can tell you one thing: it does. The collective solidarity on the biggest social network we use can make a difference.

At the very least, it starts a conversation, which might lead to some sort of mobility and hopefully greater change outside of Facebook.

I don’t want to end on a sour note, but I thought these were important points to make. I honestly am happier about the support I saw more than anything.

Thanks to everyone who did something about, said something about, liked, favorited and discussed what is going on in the Supreme Court. Your support is immensely appreciated and will never go unnoticed or forgotten.

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  • Jasper

    Hey Carmen, great article. I too would like to see more straight men show their solidarity for LGBTQ causes.

    For those interested in more information on the LGBT/queer critique of the marriage movement, here’s a response I wrote to someone recently on the topic (note, I use the word ‘queer’ in this response partially because this is a way I describe myself and the way many of my friends describe themselves. it is being used proudly, not pejoratively):

    Bus seats [or lunch counters] were a tactic in a larger fight for desegregation and cultural change, coupled with a fight for policy-level changes… in contrast many of the marriage equality activists express this policy change as THE end goal of the ‘gay rights movement’ [such as these two claiming marriage is the 'last remaining civil right' http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/51290768#51290768 ] Millions upon millions of dollars go into marriage equality lobbying while queer youth shelters around the country are shutting down for lack of funding. sometimes queer youth advocates can’t even get a shelter started up because the upper middle class [gay] residents in the gayborhood are worried it will lower their property values (this very thing happened in the Castro in the 90s). this is just one example involving differences in class — there are so many more that i could go into if you want. Point being, there’s class warfare, race issues, and other forms of oppression being consistently perpetuated within and from elements of the lgbt/queer community. it’s about time we *all* start to talk about it before the marriage fight is over and the well-off couples funding it close up shop, deluding themselves into thinking that they’ve ended ‘injustice everywhere’ because *they* no longer feel oppressed, even as they continue to perpetuate other systems of oppression (some of which are especially felt by other queer/trans* people supposedly of their community).

  • Rory

    Couple things.

    “If you support it, then you’re gay.” ….honest question, have you actually heard this or did you just make it up? A guy is definitely wayyyy more likely to be accused of being in the closet if he is particularly homophobic.

    ‘Straight men have little reason to care because they barely know what it feels like to be in the minority if at all, therefore have no sense of duty to help or simply show solidarity to those who are affected by the various social strata that put them in the “unmarked,” privileged category.’ ……Stuff like this is just so accusatory. Actually your whole article feels accusatory. Is it supposed to be an invitation or a rant?

    I could go on for a long time but I guess my point is you have a narrow worldview and I support gay rights despite articles like this.